Behind the numbers: Shining Rock rescue
A week has passed since two hikers lost in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area first called 911, which has given Haywood County officials a chance to reflect on the massive effort — and costs — to locate the lost men.
Direct rescue costs were minimal, said Haywood County Emergency Services Coordinator Greg Shuping. The taxpayer commitment is to have a department and coordinated effort to address emergencies within the county, which include anything from a hazardous waste spill on the interstate to a massive fire in the county to a snowstorm that shuts down the county.
Last week's rescue started after David Crockett, 23, a student at UNC-Charlotte, and Sultan Alraddadi, 29, set out from the Big East Fork Trailhead on an afternoon hike. Their situation turned critical when they lost the trail. After spending Thursday night out in the wilderness, they called 911 and the search began. Crews set out Friday morning and searched through the night, but turned up no results. At 5 p.m. Saturday, the men were spotted and later rescued by a helicopter.
An email sent out by the Haywood County Sheriff's Office PIO Lindsay Regner stated the men each had three layers of clothing on when they hit the trail. They did bring snacks and water, but ran out on the second day. To stay hydrated, they drank water from a nearby stream and melted snow.
When the hikers first made contact with communications, they were instructed to stay where they were, Regner said, so they built a shelter, gathered wood and built a fire to stay warm. After 30 hours, they chose to move to another location, where they built another shelter and fire under a tree. Although they unsuccessfully attempted to catch the tree on fire, the smoke was still visible from the helicopter, and rescuers were led to their location.
Shuping said although rescuers faced inclement weather, including snow and icy cold winds, those who go through the rigorous training to qualify for search and rescue work are prepared.
“Our Haywood Search and Rescue team spent three full days training last winter in Pisgah National Forest with temperatures below freezing,” he said, also noting that the training was paid for by N.C. Emergency Management. “They learned what clothing to wear, how to walk in snowshoes, unique rescue equipment and other applicable tools and knowledge.”
To be certified, all 40 members of Haywood Search and Rescue team had to complete 168 hours of technical rescue training, 60 hours of wilderness rescue training and 48 hours of mountain search and rescue, a total of 276 hours of training. All the training was paid for by the state.
Although the total cost of last week's rescue will be tough to pinpoint, Shuping was able to break some of the numbers down. Rescuers provide their own basic equipment, including clothes and boots, but the county provides more than $20,000 worth of search and rescue equipment, including ropes, hardware and special cold weather equipment. This equipment is used time and again.
As for the rescue itself, many involved on the county level were either volunteers or already on the clock for EMS, emergency management, the sheriff’s office, or other departments of the county.
There were 16 vehicles used by various agencies at the scene. Shuping said the only costs related to the vehicles were fuel and normal wear and tear.
“To my knowledge no equipment was lost or damaged,” he said.
The only other cost he knew of was food. He said while some money was spent on pizza, snacks and water, much of the food was donated by the community.
The direct expense of this specific rescue appears cheap, but the steepest cost — the preparedness efforts through equipping, training and maintenance — have already been paid by the county.
“It’s difficult to quantify the thousands of man hours spent training and preparing for these incidents,” Shuping said.
The most expensive part of the weekend rescue effort was the cost of the air support that came in Saturday after the weather cleared. It was state, not county resources, however, that covered the cost of the helicopter and crews that located and extracted the lost hikers.
“The cost of search and rescue is primarily paid for with sweat, passion and hard work from all the volunteers and staff across this County and State who give tirelessly to train and maintain a state or readiness,” Shuping said.
A total of 37 county, state, regional and federal organization came together for the search. The local organizations included the sheriff’s office and various fire departments, among others, while on the federal level, large agencies such as the forest service turned out to aid rescuers.
"If you ask anyone from the Cruso Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Office or Search and Rescue Team why they do this, they’ll likely say they train and respond so that “others may live,” Shuping said.
In a release, Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher echoed Shuping's sentiments.
“There are two men alive today because of the efforts of people who have a heart of servitude,” he said. “I have never been more proud of a group of folks, many of whom are volunteers, who risked so much to find these men. On behalf of Haywood County and our Sheriff’s Office, we are grateful for all who took part in this search and rescue.”
Here are the agencies which aided in the rescue, sent to the Mountaineer from Haywood County PIO Dona Stewart.
Haywood County Sheriff’s Office
Haywood County Administration
Haywood County Emergency Management
Haywood County Incident Management Team
Haywood County Rescue Squad Search & Rescue Team
Haywood County Rescue Squad
Haywood County Emergency Medical Services
Haywood County Fire Marshal’s Office
Haywood County Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
Cruso Fire and Rescue
Waynesville Fire Department
East Fork Baptist Church (food for responders Saturday evening)
Vicki Hyatt (homemade bread for responders)
Henderson County Rescue Squad
West Buncombe Fire Department
Spring Creek Fire Department
Buncombe County Rescue Squad
Buncombe County EMS
Mills River Fire Department
Linville Central Rescue Squad
NC Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) 1
NC Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) 2
NC Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) 3
NC Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) 4
NC Mountain Search and Rescue Team (MSAR) 5
NC State Highway Patrol
NC Wildlife Resource Commission
NC Emergency Operations Center
NC Emergency Management
NC Department of Transportation
NC National Guard
NC State Bureau of Investigation
NC HART (Helo Aquatic Rescue Team)
NC Department of Transportation
Charlotte Fire Department
Mountain Area Medical Airlift (MAMA1)
United States Forest Service
National Park Service
Blue Ridge Parkway
National Weather Service
Air Force Rescue Coordination Center